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The ugly duckling

October 8, 2009


This morning I spoke to a friend’s brother..connected with him after a long time…

He used to be a problem child…never able to retain a job…wild…different..

I learned today, that he heads a key role for a very large diversified business group, as country head! I was very happily surprised and pleased…and later…reflective…

How often I have come across people who’ve been “written off” or seen as “high maintenance” or “problems” who have turned it all around.

Most of us had life easy..Most folks toed the line…trod the beaten path…did all the safe things…got adulation…got acceptance…were not treated like wierd people..these folks..were mostly misunderstood, more often than not by their own family..burdened with a constant demand to prove themselves, settle down, do something with their life..

Disney's 1931 version
Image via Wikipedia

And actually all they were doing, was trying to figure out what they wanted to become…who they wanted to be…what they loved…what caught their fancy in a way that they would be able to live with it all their life…

And time and again, I have seen them become successful…to the surprise of most and the chagrin of a few, I must add!

And having achieved their objective, found their dream, found their passion, I have seen these folks happier than most others.. I find they’re more stable, more at peace with themselves than most others, who chose the beaten path..

There is a lot to be said, for following your heart…for persevering…for refusing to accept anything less than what brings you completeness..there is a lot to be said for not allowing ridicule or social doubt affect your focus..

I wonder today, how we treat such people in our families? As business leaders in organizations, are we specifically attuned to such people because they have a tremendous energy and passion which if harnessed can add huge value. As friends, family, colleagues…are we sensitive? Vincent Van Gogh (1854 1890)


The fable of the ugly duckling had a moral for the ducklings that read it, and for the nurturers around the duckling…which one are you?


Bill Gates at CES 2007
Image by Domain Barnyard via Flickr
Are you such a maverick? Do you have a story to tell? I’d love to hear it here…

Have you known someone like this? How did it affect you? I’d love to know more…

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. October 20, 2009 4:16 pm

    Thankyou so much Gurprriet for sharing this wonderful story, I could totally relate to it.

    I wish to share this analogy from this quite popular game on Facebook – Farmville.

    Someone there finds an ‘ugly duckling’ and then people are asked to ‘adopt’ it. The one who ‘adopts’ the ugly duckling has to give it a shelter/space. If you do so, you’ve to be patient enough to wait for 2 days or so and then this ‘ugly duckling’ gets turned into a ‘beautiful swan’.

    This could well be a simple way to ‘respect the differences’ that we see in others. If we could ‘adopt’ (i.e., accept in our hearts) even one ‘ugly duckling’ from among our acqaintances, peers, organization, family, friends and have patience, we could be blessed with seeing them turn into ‘b’ful swans’ and touching one b’ful soul and who else knows it better than you Gurprriet who’s been touching lives (through work and writings). Kudos for this brilliant post!

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 20, 2009 4:31 pm

      Hi Manpreet

      Thank you for such a lovely acknowledgement and example. Really appreciate you taking the time!

  2. October 16, 2009 9:58 am

    Gidday Gurprriet. Really like your Ugly Duckling post. What resonates with me in this post is the themes on finding a direction in life and being passionate about what you do. It’s taken me 30 years to be an overnight sensation in discovering what my real passion is – and that is in the work I’m doing now.

    Look forward to your next post. Enjoy reading your reflective pieces.


    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 16, 2009 10:41 am


      Thanks! Man’s search for meaning and happiness, I guess…

  3. October 9, 2009 12:52 pm

    So true, Joy!

    It’s always our endeavour that people build on their strengths, and that they can understand their strengths after self reflection and exploration

    When people explore and reflect they go through churning and doubts – and as you say, they need support and encouragement and guidance – and not an attempt to fit other’s conception of success

  4. October 9, 2009 11:34 am

    I have been reading your blog eversince i strtd following u on twitter.Can’t believe i neva got around this one.

    Now when i have read it,i cant help relate it to what m going through at this juncture in my life.

    Confused,scared,nervous,on the verge of a breakout.
    In a safe and secure job which pays me well, but does not satisfy my hunger for learning.neither does it intrigue me anymore, for i seem to have found my calling elsewhere.
    Life is at crossroads when i dont know which path i should take.
    I would love to discuss this in detail in with you if it is possible


    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 9, 2009 11:42 am

      Like i said, i do what I do, that I am able to touch lives. Have sent you my phone number via DM on Twitter. Call me!

      And it’ll work out.

      FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real!!

      Be informed by fear, not influenced by it…

  5. October 9, 2009 11:25 am

    Thank YOU! I am always amazed that we are expected by our late teens and early twenties to know who we are or what we want to be in life. We are only just beginning to step out on our own and find our path.

    At 52 I have finally figured out what I want to do. I want to be a better person, Write, Design and Spend my life doing these things with my Love my Fiance Rick London (@RickLondon).

  6. October 9, 2009 10:36 am

    Very nicely put. Reminded me of my school days, where teachers used to tell me “I doubt about your future” But the same teachers were the first to congratulate when I shared small successes with them. I cannot claim to be perfect, but definitely try to practice similar sentiments.

    Ugly Duckling, Cactus….call that by any name….it is all relative & if you are strong enough, you can overcome it all.

    More some time when we share a Malt!

  7. October 9, 2009 8:05 am

    Good one there!
    Though I was bright as a kid (I still am I think), there was a point in time, when I was written off by many. I was a typical problem child, rebellious, non-conformist and given to the new “experiences” of life. Some mocked, some felt disgusted!

    But, all the while I was damn sure of what I was doing. Today I am at peace. Doing what I like. Not doing what I don’t like. And everyone is so damn proud of me!

    Here’s to mavericks…cheers!

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 9, 2009 10:33 am

      This post has brought so much pleasure and joy. It has brought so many people to my page, and enabled the sharing of so many stories. I have felt resonance with each one of them.

      Main bhi aisa hi tha, Abhishek. somewhere I gave up on college, and got into business, but the maverick remains uninhibited!

      “But, all the while I was damn sure of what I was doing. Today I am at peace. Doing what I like. Not doing what I don’t like. And everyone is so damn proud of me!” this could be me! ;o)


  8. October 9, 2009 12:44 am

    gr8 post Joy.i never realised, ur post makes me realize , i need to be more sensitive to my sister. She is a maverick and trying to find her own way keeping her identity intact in this tough world.

    Amazing, how profound writing shifts / affects one’s thinking. Keep writing good stuff. Look forward to more.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 9, 2009 10:31 am

      The reason I do what I do, OD, writing, speaking, is all so I can touch lives. If my post has enabled to look at your sister differently, if it enables you to operate from understanding instead of explaining, if it enables you to stand by her side, then it is worth it.

      Thank you for sharing so honestly. Your sharing gives me motivation to carry on writing, and carry on waking up every day, and touching more lives.

      I may sound a bit dramatic, but this is true for me…

  9. Sonali permalink
    October 9, 2009 12:25 am

    This remembers me of a punch line:

    Stay HUngry, Stay Foolish…. by Steve Jobs

    Do go through : Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address @

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 9, 2009 12:27 am

      Thanks a million Sonali!

  10. sushma sharma permalink
    October 8, 2009 9:12 pm

    hi , i agree with what you have written as I am a maverick to the core , mad and insane and not following the norms .hugs from one insane person to another

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 8, 2009 11:12 pm

      I resonated with being looked at askance, with going for weddings and all the relatives talking about me in whispers! I showed ’em all! Grin!
      Hugs right back, Sush!

  11. October 8, 2009 10:20 am

    great story, It seems to always e the people that society has given up on that make the most success for them selves.

    this gives me hop to move on to bigger and better things

  12. Geetha Bellu permalink
    October 8, 2009 8:37 am

    A stimulating piece! You call them ugly ducklings and I call them cactus – they are different, lack the beauty that is common but they are admired for being so different, so sure and so strong in all seasons.

    Keep stimulating!

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 8, 2009 10:30 am

      Thanks Geetha!

  13. October 8, 2009 7:29 am

    I have always enjoyed being the maverick, pushing the edges, doing the “right” thing instead of the corporate thing. That’s why I’ve been downsized 3 times, but I’ve changed the thinking and even the worklives of many through what I – along with you Gurprriet – do. Keep it up!

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 8, 2009 10:28 am


      I mention you often as a friend and a mentor I look up to. It was an honor and privilege to work with you, and to know you.

      Thanks for dropping by my friend!

  14. October 8, 2009 6:38 am

    Inspiring piece. Agree 100%. I am glad I took the decision to move out of my comfort zone in 2000 and folow my heart. That is why I am able to appreciate every single word in your blog.

    Very well written.

    Thank you.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      October 8, 2009 10:39 am

      And having experienced a sample of the things you have put together, I think it was a brilliant move. Wish you all the best Sridhar!

  15. October 8, 2009 2:04 am

    The world envies mavericks. You are a maverick Joy, but there are some of us who dream of being a maverick but stay in the comfort zone. Folks like you are needed to go over the edge. As always stimulating…

  16. gurprrietsiingh permalink*
    October 8, 2009 1:49 am

    You made my day Jude… I wrote this for people like you and I , who’ve found our way, and now we know peace and completeness! Thanks for reading, and sharing so beautifully, a part of you…

  17. October 8, 2009 1:39 am

    Oh this is so true! I spent 15 years working in a corporation, playing roles. I was really good at it… and I eventually becamse miserable.

    Now I’ve found myself again, set myself free! I know I’m eccentric. I don’t toe the line. Not everyone understands me. It doesn’t get me pay rises! And that’s ok because being me is always enough.


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